The Bedford-Row Conspiracy Part 6

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“Hush,” said Scully, rather surlily; for he was thinking how disagreeable it was to support Macabaw; and besides, there were clerks in the room, whom the thoughtless Perkins had not at first perceived. As soon as that gentleman saw them, “You are busy, I see,” continued he in a lower tone. “I came to say that I must be off duty to-day, for I am engaged to take a walk with some ladies of my acquaintance.”

So saying, the light-hearted young man placed his hat unceremoniously on his head, and went off through his own door, humming a song. He was in such high spirits that he did not even think of closing the doors of communication, and Scully looked after him with a sneer.

“Ladies, forsooth,” thought he; “I know who they are. This precious girl that he is fooling with, for one, I suppose.” He was right: Perkins was off on the wings of love, to see Miss Lucy; and she and Aunt Biggs and Uncle Crampton had promised this very day to come and look at the apartments which Mrs. John Perkins was to occupy with her happy husband.

“Poor devil,” so continued Mr. Scully’s meditations, “it is almost too bad to do him out of his place; but my Bob wants it, and John’s girl has, I hear, seven thousand pounds. His uncle will get him another place before all that money is spent.” And herewith Mr. Scully began conning the speech which Perkins had made for him.

He had not read it more than six times,–in truth, he was getting it by heart,–when his head clerk came to him from the front room, bearing a card: a footman had brought it, who said his lady was waiting below.

Lady Gorgon’s name was on the card! To seize his hat and rush downstairs was, with Mr. Scully, the work of an infinitesimal portion of time.

It was indeed Lady Gorgon in her Gorgonian chariot.

“Mr. Scully,” said she, popping her head out of window and smiling in a most engaging way, “I want to speak to you, on something very particular INDEED”–and she held him out her hand. Scully pressed it most tenderly: he hoped all heads in Bedford Row were at the windows to see him. “I can’t ask you into the carriage, for you see the governess is with me, and I want to talk secrets to you.”

“Shall I go and make a little promenade?” said mademoiselle, innocently.

And her mistress hated her for that speech.

“No. Mr. Scully, I am sure, will let me come in for five minutes?”

Mr. Scully was only too happy. My Lady descended and walked upstairs, leaning on the happy solicitor’s arm. But how should he manage? The front room was consecrated to clerks; there were clerks too, as ill-luck would have it, in his private room. “Perkins is out for the day,”

thought Scully; “I will take her into his room.” And into Perkins’s room he took her–ay, and he shut the double doors after him too, and trembled as he thought of his own happiness.

“What a charming little study,” said Lady Gorgon, seating herself. And indeed it was very pretty: for Perkins had furnished it beautifully, and laid out a neat tray with cakes, a cold fowl, and sherry, to entertain his party withal. “And do you bachelors always live so well?” continued she, pointing to the little cold collation.

Mr. Scully looked rather blank when he saw it, and a dreadful suspicion crossed his soul; but there was no need to trouble Lady Gorgon with explanations: therefore, at once, and with much presence of mind, he asked her to partake of his bachelor’s fare (she would refuse Mr. Scully nothing that day). A pretty sight would it have been for young Perkins to see strangers so unceremoniously devouring his feast. She drank–Mr.

Scully drank–and so emboldened was he by the draught that he actually seated himself by the side of Lady Gorgon, on John Perkins’s new sofa.

Her Ladyship had of course something to say to him. She was a pious woman, and had suddenly conceived a violent wish for building a chapel of ease at Oldborough, to which she entreated him to subscribe. She enlarged upon the benefits that the town would derive from it, spoke of Sunday-schools, sweet spiritual instruction, and the duty of all well-minded persons to give aid to the scheme.

“I will subscribe a hundred pounds,” said Scully, at the end of her Ladyship’s harangue: “would I not do anything for you?”

“Thank you, thank you, dear Mr. Scully,” said the enthusiastic woman.

(How the “dear” went burning through his soul!) “Ah!” added she, “if you WOULD but do anything for me–if you, who are so eminently, so truly distinguished, in a religious point of view, would but see the truth in politics too; and if I could see your name among those of the true patriot party in this empire, how blest–oh! how blest should I be! Poor Sir George often says he should go to his grave happy, could he but see you the guardian of his boy; and I, your old friend (for we WERE friends, William), how have I wept to think of you as one of those who are bringing our monarchy to ruin. Do, do promise me this too!” And she took his hand and pressed it between hers.

The heart of William Pitt Scully, during this speech, was thumping up and down with a frightful velocity and strength. His old love, the agency of the Gorgon property–the dear widow–five thousand a year clear–a thousand delicious hopes rushed madly through his brain, and almost took away his reason. And there she sat–she, the loved one, pressing his hand and looking softly into his eyes.

Down, down he plumped on his knees.

“Juliana!” shrieked he, “don’t take away your hand! My love–my only love!–speak but those blessed words again! Call me William once more, and do with me what you will.”

Juliana cast down her eyes and said, in the very smallest type, “William!”

–when the door opened, and in walked Mr. Crampton, leading Mrs. Biggs, who could hardly contain herself for laughing, and Mr. John Perkins, who was squeezing the arm of Miss Lucy. They had heard every word of the two last speeches.

For at the very moment when Lady Gorgon had stopped at Mr. Scully’s door, the four above-named individuals had issued from Great James Street into Bedford Row.

Lucy cried out that it was her aunt’s carriage, and they all saw Mr.

Scully come out, bare-headed, in the sunshine, and my Lady descend, and the pair go into the house. They meanwhile entered by Mr. Perkins’s own private door, and had been occupied in examining the delightful rooms on the ground-floor, which were to be his dining-room and library–from which they ascended a stair to visit the other two rooms, which were to form Mrs. John Perkins’s drawing-room and bedroom. Now whether it was that they trod softly, or that the stairs were covered with a grand new carpet and drugget, as was the case, or that the party within were too much occupied in themselves to heed any outward disturbances, I know not; but Lucy, who was advancing with John (he was saying something about one of the apartments, the rogue!)–Lucy started and whispered, “There is somebody in the rooms!” and at that instant began the speech already reported, “THANK YOU, THANK YOU, DEAR MR. SCULLY,” etc. etc., which was delivered by Lady Gorgon in a full clear voice; for, to do her Ladyship justice, SHE had not one single grain of love for Mr. Scully, and during the delivery of her little oration, was as cool as the coolest cuc.u.mber.

Then began the impa.s.sioned rejoinder, to which the four listened on the landing-place; and then the little “William,” as narrated above: at which juncture Mr. Crampton thought proper to rattle at the door, and, after a brief pause, to enter with his party.

“William” had had time to bounce off his knees, and was on a chair at the other end of the room.

“What, Lady Gorgon!” said Mr. Crampton, with excellent surprise, “how delighted I am to see you! Always, I see employed in works of charity”

(the chapel-of-ease paper was on her knees), “and on such an occasion, too,–it is really the most wonderful coincidence! My dear madam, here is a silly fellow, a nephew of mine, who is going to marry a silly girl, a niece of your own.”

“Sir, I–” began Lady Gorgon, rising.

“They heard every word,” whispered Mr. Crampton eagerly. “Come forward, Mr. Perkins, and show yourself.” Mr. Perkins made a genteel bow. “Miss Lucy, please to shake hands with your aunt; and this, my dear madam, is Mrs. Biggs, of Mecklenburgh Square, who, if she were not too old, might marry a gentleman in the Treasury, who is your very humble servant.” And with this gallant speech, old Mr. Crampton began helping everybody to sherry and cake.

As for William Pitt Scully, he had disappeared, evaporated, in the most absurd sneaking way imaginable. Lady Gorgon made good her retreat presently, with much dignity, her countenance undismayed, and her face turned resolutely to the foe.

About five days afterwards, that memorable contest took place in the House of Commons, in which the partisans of Mr. Macabaw were so very nearly getting him the Speakership. On the day that the report of the debate appeared in the Times, there appeared also an announcement in the Gazette as follows:–

“The King has been pleased to appoint John Perkins, Esquire, to be Deputy-Subcomptroller of His Majesty’s Tape Office and Custos of the Sealing-Wax Department.”

Mr. Crampton showed this to his nephew with great glee, and was chuckling to think how Mr. William Pitt Scully would be annoyed, who had expected the place, when Perkins burst out laughing and said, “By heavens, here is my own speech! Scully has spoken every word of it; he has only put in Mr. Pincher’s name in the place of Mr. Macabaw’s.”

“He is ours now,” responded his uncle, “and I told you WE WOULD HAVE HIM FOR NOTHING. I told you, too, that you should be married from Sir George Gorgon’s, and here is proof of it.”

It was a letter from Lady Gorgon, in which she said that, “had she known Mr. Perkins to be a nephew of her friend Mr. Crampton, she never for a moment would have opposed his marriage with her niece, and she had written that morning to her dear Lucy, begging that the marriage breakfast should take place in Baker Street.”

“It shall be in Mecklenburgh Square,” said John Perkins stoutly; and in Mecklenburgh Square it was.

William Pitt Scully, Esquire, was, as Mr. Crampton said, hugely annoyed at the loss of the place for his nephew. He had still, however, his hopes to look forward to, but these were unluckily dashed by the coming in of the Whigs. As for Sir George Gorgon, when he came to ask about his peerage, Hawksby told him that they could not afford to lose him in the Commons, for a Liberal Member would infallibly fill his place.

And now that the Tories are out and the Whigs are in, strange to say a Liberal does fill his place. This Liberal is no other than Sir George Gorgon himself, who is still longing to be a lord, and his lady is still devout and intriguing. So that the Members for Oldborough have changed sides, and taunt each other with apostasy, and hate each other cordially. Mr. Crampton still chuckles over the manner in which he tricked them both, and talks of those five minutes during which he stood on the landing-place, and hatched and executed his “Bedford-Row Conspiracy.”

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